Integration of technologies for automation has been a growing trend in manufacturing, spurred on by an amazing array of technologies. Enhanced chip and MEMS design and production techniques have pushed aside space considerations that limited the extent to which sensors could combine complementary technologies. These developments made integration possible to levels few thought possible even ten years ago.
Into the Fast Lane
This trend has moved into the fast lane with the combination of software and communications. By blending these technologies, manufacturers can gather raw sensor data, present it in the most usable form, and distribute it to users anywhere in the factory.
IQMS provides us with an example of the combination of these two technologies. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor recently announced the availability of its new EnterpriseIQ RealTime Wireless Production Monitoring System, which incorporates mesh networking technology and a proprietary mote design with its ERP software.
IQMS has added a standards-based wireless technology interface to extend the functionality already found in its existing EnterpriseIQ system. With embedded wireless technology, IQMS' product can synchronize all networked machines to monitor discrete, cyclical, and continuous operations. The product streamlines communications through message formats and network protocols without the added cost incurred by hard-wired monitoring systems.
By connecting the software directly to shop floor machines, EnterpriseIQ tracks all aspects of production in near real time, as parts are being made and applied to the shop orders. Data updates are instantaneous and continuous, and they require no human intervention. Critical data—such as parts created, production time, down time, rejects, parts remaining to be produced, and finished product counts—are collected and conveyed to the manufacturing schedule in seconds. And automatic production shift reports simplify inventory reconciliation and increase data integrity.
A New Level
Products such as EnterpriseIQ take integration to a new level. By blending software and communications, the human and device processes become further intertwined. And more important, it allows employees to work more closely by providing a clearer picture of the factory's operations. Thus, integration becomes more than combining functionality in a device; it connects the functions of users.